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Rio My Dinero

Well, the mystery of how Overwatch is going to make money in the future has been revealed:

The new skins, sprays, and so forth come from limited-time-only Summer Games loot crates. Players will receive a free crate upon logging in, but here’s the rub: Summer Games items cannot be purchased with your stockpile of credits, nor can Summer Games items be found in standard loot crates.

In other words, Blizzard has just created a set of new skins for all the characters, and are locking them behind limited-time paywall lootboxes. Specifically want the new Tracer skin? Good luck. You cannot specifically purchase a skin, nor can you craft one with in-game currency.

This particular pivot boggles my mind. Blizzard went from one of the most fair, egalitarian business models I have seen in videogames… to pretty much the worst possible one. Sure, they are just characters skins and “don’t matter.” At the same time, if any of these particular skins did matter to you, then, well, get fucked, I guess.

If this is indicative of Blizzard’s future direction with Overwatch, I just got a lot less interested.

[Fake Edit]: Jeff Kaplan has come out and specified that you can choose to receive a Summer Games lootbox when you earn a lootbox normally, e.g. when gaining levels. Good luck grinding that shit out in three weeks though. Making the in-game currency useless for these time-limited events is still a travesty.

Questing and Interactivity

I was all prepared to talk about questing and how I think MMO designers are doing it wrong… and then I discovered Jeff Kaplan pretty much said everything back in 2009.

“Basically, and I’m speaking to the Blizzard guys in the back: we need to stop writing a fucking book in our game, because nobody wants to read it.”

That line is a part of a larger commentary on what Kaplan calls Medium Envy – the tendency for game designers to turn their game into a book or movie at the expense of the one quality that sets games apart: their interactivity. The industry has wild oscillations on this subject, with brilliant examples of the Right Way (Half Life series with zero cutscenes) and the Wrong Way (Metal Gear Solid series). Of course, I say “Right Way” but obviously feel that cutscenes and cinematics have a place in expanding the narrative in ways that perhaps interactivity could not (at least without gimmicks).

I definitely recommend checking out the presentation through the summary at the above link, the Wow Insider writeup, or even listen to the whole hour-long presentation via Vimeo (audio only, but it does have photos of the slides). Assuming, of course, you did not already read this two years ago.